How to Obtain a Legal Separation in West Virginia?

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Legal separation in West Virginia is also known as marriage separation or limited divorce. The process of legal separation is similar to the process of divorce. The couples have to sign a Property Settlement or Separation Agreement in order to make the separation legal.

Property Settlement and Separation Agreement:

A separation agreement is a written agreement between a husband and a wife, in which they declare that they wish to “live separate and apart” and they have resolved all the marital issues in order to do so. This agreement is a detailed statement regarding all the marital issues such as property settlement, division, child care, and other issues pertaining to a marriage.

These issues have to be addresses very carefully owing to their conflicting nature. Let us have a detailed look at the clauses added in a separation agreement to make it as conflict free as possible. These clauses are as follows:

  • Property Settlement – The decisions regarding the provisions of property have to be made while signing the settlement agreement. The directions regarding the family home, vacation home, other real estate purchased during the marriage, all the debts such as mortgage on home, car or other possessions, loans have to be settled. Besides these, the decisions regarding the assets, responsibilities also have to be made while going for the property settlement.
    Property settlement also comprises of the disposition of possessions such as jewelry, investments, clothing, monetary rewards received by either of the partners, if any. The couple should list the marital as well as the individual property before going to the attorney or the court to divide it.
  • Child Support – The custody of the children is one of the important childcare issues. It is important to determine the amount of child support when the couple signs the separation agreement. The child support amount in West Virginia is determined using the formulae derived according to the number of the children the couple has. The adopted children are counted here along with the biological children.
    In simple terms, the child support amount is determined keeping in mind the income of the parents and how much they both contributed when they were not separated. The parent who has a higher income has to contribute more when it comes to child support so as to provide the children with the lifestyle they had before the separation.
  • Allocation of Custody and Decision-making Rights – The allocation of custody is done keeping in focus the child's / children's best interests. It is ensured that they do not suffer because of the differences of opinions between the parents. The court considers some specific factors while awarding the custody to a parent and the visitation to the other parent. These factors are stability of the child, way of upbringing, quick and right decision-making in the best interest of the child as well as the emotional attachment of the kid to each parent and the parent's priority to the child.
    Generally, the court encourages the couple to make the decisions regarding the child custody and visitation as it helps the couple to prioritize the children's needs before them. If the couple fails to reach a mutual settlement regarding child care issues, the court intervenes and makes the decisions regarding these issues.
  • Payment of Spousal Support – The most conflicting issue in a separation settlement is alimony or spousal support. It is almost impossible for the couple to reach the settlement on this issue owing to the bitterness between the individuals discussing this. However, if the couple is on amicable terms, they can still reach a settlement which is beneficial for them. In case of conflicts, the court gives directions regarding the amount of spousal support.
    The court determines whether the dependent spouse needs the spousal support or he / she can manage on his / her own. The non-monetary contribution given by the dependent spouse to the household is also considered while determining the spousal support amount. The amount can be given on a monthly basis, lump sum or in any other form which is convenient to both the parties.
  • Other Issues arising from Marital Rights and Obligations – Other issues such as preparing a parenting plan, handling the co-parenting with the ex, mutual investments such as funds, joint bank accounts, different parenting styles and other issues, which are not directly dealt by the court. These also include emergency health care, extraordinary health-care expenses in the situation of life-threatening conditions, insurance coverages on each other's policies etc. also have to be discussed and put on paper so as to avoid litigation and conflicts.
Legal separation is usually pursued by a couple for several reasons. These reasons are various ranging from religious, social, emotional to financial. It is more a matter of convenience in which the couples decide to give their marriage a chance to reconcile and prioritize the needs of the kids before oneself.

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